Aside from all of the greatness that Stephen Colbert is—fearless satirist, advocate for morality, generally hilarious dude—the single greatest thing about him has got to be his unparalleled knowledge of the Lord of the Rings.
Last night before “The Late Show” aired, as he does before every show, Colbert allowed his audience to ask him questions. The host is well known as a Lord of the Rings pundit (Peter Jackson even declared him the world’s biggest Tolkien fan), so it’s understandable that audience members should want to see him flex his LOTR muscles.
“Who’s your favorite Tolkien character?” one person asked. “Samwise Gamgee is the best character,” Colbert replied, confidently. He calls him the “real hero” and gives a lengthy discourse on how the ring would have never been destroyed if Samwise the Brave hadn’t been by Frodo’s side. It was relatively standard fare, though, regarding level of nerdom.
But then Colbert took it to another level, as Entertainment Weekly notes. To the follow-up question, “Which Lord of the Rings character would you interview if you could have them on your show?,” the host gave a resounding answer: Gandalf. “Gandalf is a Maiar who has been in Arda since Iluvatar cried ‘Ea,’ so he knows it all,” he said. There was already some astounded laughter at those name drops. Colbert couldn’t help himself from digging deeper, though, and, unprompted, he launched into a lengthy backstory of our favorite wizard.
“The cool thing about Gandalf is in Valinor, he was named Olorin, and he was one of the Maiar associated with the Valar, who are upper angels you might say, the archangels or demi-gods, named Nienna. Most of the Valar in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion are associated in some way with a power or a focus or a patronage associated with Greek gods … Nienna, there’s no association in any other mythology. Because what does she do forever? What is her power? Does anyone know?” He pauses here to laughter at the absurdity that anyone else might know the answer.
“Nienna weeps forever, and turns grief into wisdom,” he continued. “That is her power. And Gandalf, who was Olorin at the time, that’s his patron, that’s who he hangs out with. That’s why he’s not interested in power or glory when he comes to Middle-Earth, like Saruman. Saruman was a Maiar of the Valar Aule, who was the craftsman. So that makes sense, right?”
What LOTR question would you ask Colbert if you had the chance?